I make the mistakes, so you don’t have to. Here are seven things I always, without fail forget to do before heading out on a trip. Consider this blog post my resolution: Never again!
1. Clearing memory space on my iPhone
My iPhone is my everything while traveling — camera, email client, guidebook reader, itinerary organizer — so you’d think I’d remember to clear some memory before leaving. Nope.
Instead, I inevitably arrive in a foreign country and start snapping photos, shooting video, saving screenshots before — BOOM! — I get this lovely message:
Never again! I now have Dropbox and Amazon Photos accounts that automatically upload photos when I’m on wifi. I also set a handy reminder for the day before departure reminding me to upload and delete photos and video, delete any unnecessary apps and peruse my storage for any opportunities to create more space.
2. Putting a travel plan on my cards
There’s nothing worse than having a credit card declined due not to a lack of funds but to your own stupidity. Trust me, I know. I love that my bank strictly monitors my purchasing — they’re diligence has stopped at least one fraudster. However, when I forget to add a travel plan to my debit and credit cards, I’m shit out of luck when it comes time to pay up.
Never again! I am now in the habit of adding travel plans the minute I book my airline reservations. It’s my new one-two punch for travel planning. Airplane tickets booked = travel plan added, even before I announce my travels to the world. Add a travel plan first, tweet/Instagram/Facebook my #travelstoke second.
3. Purchasing a foreign-currency lump sum
I once landed at Paris’ hopelessly outdated de Gaulle airport at the same time as about a million other travelers only to discover the airport had ONE working ATM. That was a fun hour wait on line and exorbitant transaction fee. In the US, I’m almost always using my credit card (miles, baby!), so I sometimes forget that cash is king outside the US-Canada. Arriving completely devoid of local currency is a mistake I’ve made all too often.
Never again! I’m now in the habit of purchasing lump sums of foreign currency at my local Wells Fargo. WF doesn’t charge account holders a fee, so it’s by far the cheapest, not to mention easiest, way to get foreign currency. I usually buy enough to cover hotels and basic daily necessities in order to limit transaction fees associated with debit and credit cards and skip that pain-in-the-ass hunt for an ATM upon arrival. On long trips, I’ll have several thousands of dollars in multiple currencies, so I hide the funds in different places and am extra careful about security.
4. Organizing trip-specific apps
As I previously mentioned, my iPhone is my travel everything. I download apps specific to my travels — railroad companies, travel agencies, tourism bureaus, etc. Much like my guidebook binging, if there’s an app for it, I’m downloading it. Trouble is, I invariably stuff the app inside my generic homescreen “Travel,” “Transport” or “Productivity” folders only to let it die a slow death.
Never again! Nowadays, I organize all my trip-specific apps into corresponding country or trip folders. Where’s that elusive DB Bahn app? In my Germany folder, of course!
5. Doing a history lesson
I love history and strongly believe that learning a little bit of history about a place is paramount to making the most of a trip. Well, if only I walked the walk like I talk the talk. Countless times I have arrived in a new country and started talking to folks before realizing I have a startlingly poor understanding of the country’s history and culture.
Never again! At the very least, I’m committing to reading the history section of my guidebooks and doing some Wikipedia research. Better yet, I now find history books from my local library and keep notes in my notebook about notable historic happenings and cultural nuances. (Note: Belize gained independence in 1980.)
6. Sharing my itinerary with family
What do you do in airports while waiting for your flights? Catch up on email? Casually call your friends? Grab a pre-flight bite to eat? Well, that sounds nice. Me? It usually goes something like, “Crap, I forgot to send my itinerary to my parents/wife/brother!” Then, I hurriedly find free wifi, frantically piece together something resembling an itinerary and apologetically blast it out, often as I am quite literally boarding the plane.
Never again! I’m now hooked on Concur’s TripIt app. TripIt almost automatically builds your itinerary using lodging, transportation and activity confirmation emails. You can share the itinerary straight from the app via email. It’s super easy to use. Try it out — your parents will thank you.
7. Telling my family how much I love them
No excuses here: Every time you fly or travel long distances, calling your parents, partner, siblings, etc. to tell them you love them and how much they mean to you should be a requirement. I confess that I need to work on this. My family means so much to me, but boy do I suck at telling them.
Never again! I hate admitting this, but I now set a reminder on my day of travel or day before to call my brother/parents/wife/son to tell them that I love them and they’re my world. And just in case I do ever forget again: I love you guys!